Thursday, December 30, 2010

Endless Rants

Its been quite awhile since my last post.  For the most part, I haven't been feeling quite like myself (wonder why?) and just haven't been able to work up the mental energy to blog.  That seems to be the biggest side effect I've been facing over the last month and a half.  I've been facing a lack of energy or desire to much of anything when I don't absolutely have to.  I find that most of the time I'm a lump.  It does get better the further I get away from treatments, but it never completely goes away and I always know its going to get worse again.  Right now its hard to see beyond the immediate.  I know that after just two more treatments (a month and a half?) I should go back to feeling more normal.  But then when I am able to look past right now, all I can see is the next hurdle or two I'll have to take on.

Everyone keeps telling me to take it easy on myself and relax.  They keep telling me that its completely normal to be feeling all of this and that it makes perfect sense.  That its fine if I don't want to do anything.  And I see all of this.  I comprehend it.  And I don't disagree.  The problem is that I know I'm capable of more.  I know that my pre-chemo self had lazy and disconnected moments, but they never lasted for nearly 6 weeks at a time.  In the first week and a half after treatment even simple tasks seem too much to accomplish.  Its not that I lack energy most of the time, its more that I lack motivation and drive.

Which brings me to another problem.  I feel like I've become such a downer.  I don't want to be a whiner, but I feel like all I have to talk about these days are symptoms and side effects.  It doesn't make for very interesting conversation.  So I've found myself talking less and less... I have few new things to say that don't involve chemo and cancer.

Last week I received my 4th chemo treatment -- now I am officially more than halfway done with chemo.  Its sounds huge but it still feels so immense to have to go through 2 more rounds.  Once I get through the first few days it always gets easier, but when I'm actually going through those early days, it feels endless.  And even though I'm getting used to it and know about what to expect, the whole thing is just getting to be so tiresome.  I know I should be happy that I'm almost done with chemo, but it just feels so monotonous -- which I know sounds odd.  The scary new-ness of it all has worn off and now it is just this tedious thing that I have to do, that's hard and no fun and not "exciting" anymore.  Not that this was ever what I would call exciting in the positive sense of the word, but more in an uncharted territory, start of a fight way.

I'm still have the positive attitude about the end result, but my resolve is just starting to wear thin regarding the day-to-day battle.

This post is starting to seem more like a rant than anything else, so I'll go ahead and wrap it up.  I hope everyone has a wonderful new year.  I'm hoping 2011 is going to be better than 2010 turned out to be.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Down but not out

So the second round of chemo has been better and not so better.  The physical side effects have not been as bad this time around... still lots of tiredness, but not the same level of physical discomfort.  The problem this time around has been mental.  As I've recently learned, depression is a common side effect of chemo.  I started feeling the effects on Monday and then again today.  And it seems to hit me most in the morning. 

I mostly hate this new side effect because it is so unlike me.  I'm usually a pretty upbeat, optimistic person and I hate having these thoughts that I'm not in control of.  It makes complete sense, of course, that I would have to deal with this since my whole body is now completely chemically imbalanced and my hormones are out of whack.  But I still don't like it.  Not one bit.  I know I can get through this, its just hard to deal with right now because I can't see the end of it. 

The other side effect I'm having is being very anti-clutter and things.  I used to enjoy shopping and buying things but now I just feel like I have too much stuff and no place to put any of it.  Ben is doing a great job dealing with my anti-clutter tendencies.  He's been so patient and strong through all of this and I'm so lucky to have him as a support.  I'm also lucky to have the rest of you in my strong network of support -- you really help keep me going with your words of support.  So, thank you.

I start back at work tomorrow, so I think that should keep me distracted and occupied for the time being.  I also need to find a hobby, so any suggestions are welcome. 

Here's hoping my new medicine helps me out of this funk.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hit me with your best shot

So I've received round 2 of chemo and now I'm recovering (so not quite done with the round yet from my perspective).  I've been feeling pretty blah and sluggish, but if I take a step back and look at it in perspective, I'm doing okay.  I'm definitely still not with it, but I'm not hugging the toilet either. 

The weather has been beautiful this weekend, but I've mostly been inside laying on the couch.  Yesterday Ben reorganized our big hall closet and cleaned the apartment for me, which was incredible and made my day.  Its amazing how happy vacuuming can make a person.  Today I made him go outside, enjoy the weather and play some paintball and I am hanging out at my parents house, getting waited on hand and foot.  So all in all, even though I don't feel like normal, it could be worse. 

Even though I've been dealing with the reality of breast cancer for a little while now, I still have these moments of disbelief.  Its a very strange thing to be going through at any age, but sometimes it just seems so unreal.  I'm still holding on to the hope that when I get done with all of this, I will be a much stronger person, able to deftly handle anything life throws at me.  Here's hoping....

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Round Two... Ding! Ding!

After tomorrow I will be 33% done with my chemo treatments. 

That's right, I get to look forward to round two of chemo!  While I know it won't be a few weekend, I do take comfort in knowing that I will feel like normal again and that it doesn't knock me out for the entire three weeks. 

I went to my oncologist today and she told me that I was progressing very well in my treatment, so Ben and I went out to celebrate with Thai food. 

In other news, my head is starting to get sensitive and is getting a little spotty, so I think my buzz cut may soon go the way of the rest of my hair, but it hardly matters anymore.  Once you are GI Jane, who cares if you then become Mr. Clean.  I'm really digging the scarf look and my new earrings.   Now I just need to procure more scarves to expand my head wear wardrobe. 

Here's hoping that round two isn't any worse than round one (and here's hoping it goes ever better)!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Chemo is not the only type of therapy

There is also retail therapy, which I received a healthy dose of yesterday.  I procured big earrings to go with my new head scarf look, a few new winter hats, a pair of warm gloves, some cute decorative items, the very early stages of a Christmas present and a few Christmas decorations/wrappings. 

I heard Christmas music piping into a store for the first time this season and had a beverage in my first Starbucks red cup of the season, so its safe to say that I am officially in the mood for Christmas.  Now Ben just has to keep me from putting up the tree for another 3 weeks.  Good luck to him.

I also had the opportunity to meet up with a few friends yesterday, Amy in the morning and Shannon in the afternoon.  It was great to be able to just hang out with friends, have coffee and go shopping.  I have noticed that I have less patience for stores right now -- guess I'll be doing a lot of online shopping this Christmas. 

I ended the day going out to dinner with my parents to celebrate my dad's birthday.  All in all, I'd say it was a pretty good day.  Today, once I make it back up to Alexandria, my mission is to clean, clean, clean...  we'll see how well I stick to that objective.

Thanks for all the comments and support for my new hairdos -- I have to say I'm really digging my cue ball head.

Now my weekend would be complete if someone could tell me why my brand new ipod nano won't charge with my old ipod car charger and/or docking station.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Is there a draft in here?

I did it.  This morning I went and had my head shaved.  It was very emotional, but once it was all over, I have to say that I felt pretty empowered.  And I actually feel like a bad ass right now, so I'll post a picture of what everyone says is my perfectly shaped head.

So now you can call me GI Jane, Sinead O'Connor or V for Vendetta, but I'm feeling pretty okay about it.  Its definitely  a new, attention getting haircut that isn't boring.

I'm feeling pretty victorious today, so "yay me!"

Much love to everyone for your kind thoughts and words through this whole thing.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Daily Grind

I've been back at work for a week now and it hasn't been easy.  I'm super tired and my brain just doesn't function quite as quickly as it used to.  I'm trying my best to keep up with everything, but it all feels a little harder than it did before and I struggle just a little more than I think I should.  Its extremely frustrating.

I went to a support group for young women with breast cancer last night, but it didn't really help me all that much.  I went expecting to meet someone about my age in the same point in treatment as me, but instead I met with a group of very nice and strong women who are on the other side of chemo and surgery and are probably in their 30's.  It helped a little to see that there is life beyond chemo, but it didn't help to hear about the issues they were still dealing with.  It deflated me a little and made everything a bit more frustrating.

In other news, I think my head is starting to feel tingly, so I think tomorrow might be the day that I finally lose my hair.  I thought I had come to terms with it, but now the more that I think about it, the more emotional I become.  It wouldn't be such a big deal if I were a man, but there's just something about a bald woman that makes heads turns.  Once I lose my hair, I am officially a wig-wearing, scarf-tying cancer patient -- I've been able to pretend I wasn't up until now.

Bottom line, I'm doing okay, but its been a long and frustrating week.  Here's hoping things turn around soon, so I can get back to my positive attitude.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Perfect Fall Day

Today ended up being the perfect fall day.  Ben and I slept in late and then instead of going to the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear (I thought it might be a bit too much for me to handle -- sorry Ben), we made french toast and then went off to spend the day at Mount Vernon like good NOVA yuppies. 

It finally felt like Autumn outside today and it was the perfect day to traipse around the ground of Mount Vernon (my favorite part was sitting in front of the house overlooking the Potomac for a few minutes while we waited for our house tour).

After exploring the grounds, we went to the gift shop where Ben purchased a Mount Vernon cookbook (he claims it has good soup recipes) and mini flags for his office, and I purchased a bar of lemon soap and a count cross-stich Christmas stocking pattern kit.  And no, this does not make me old, it makes me crafty.  It also means I am officially in the holiday spirit:  Bring on November!

Once we were done with Mount Vernon, we headed over to Rustico (a favorite restaruant and extraordinary beer bar) near Old Town Alexandria.  We sat at the bar for a couple hours and had some good food and beer.  After dinner, we went next door to Buzz for coffee (first gingerbread latte of the season!) and then came home. 

We are now watching the Washington Capitals hockey game and are enjoying watching them trounce the Calgary Flames.  Go CAPS!  I wish I could actually go to a game in person though. 

The cross-stich purchase earlier put me in a crafty mood, so I picked up some old knitting and I finished a scarf tonight and started on a soft winter hat.  Now if only I had the energy to clean...  ;o)

I have to say that I am feeling great today (and yesterday)!  Definitely not perfect but anything above 85% is perfect in my book these days.  And I'm so glad that I now know that I won't feel like crap everyday and that it really does get better.  It sucks knowing that I will have to go back for more treatments and that I will have to feel bad again -- but I just have to stick it out and I'll get back to feeling good again. 

This next week will present some interesting challenges I think.  It will be my first full week back at work and I think it might be the week when I finally lose my hair.  The idea of losing my hair doesn't freak me out as much as it did originally, but its still a lot to wrap my head around and I'm feeling pretty nervous about the whole thing.  I'm hoping it all just ends up being much easier to deal with than I think it will be, just like everything else has been so far.

Okay going to finish watching the CAPS win!

Much love to you all!


Friday, October 29, 2010

Back in the Saddle

So I started back to work yesterday after taking a few days off to recover from my first treatment.  I was pretty wiped out from Saturday to Wednesday.  I was very tired, had a lot of back pain (from my shot), was grumpy and emotional and was very agitated and antsy -- just nothing felt right and I could not get comfortable at any time.  I also suffered from some restless, sleepless nights before discovering the joys of Ambiene.  

By this point I've figured out the ins and outs of all of my drugs and have finally gotten them down so that I can feel relatively normal and not feel like I want to jump out of my skin -- so that's a positive.  

I continue to feel better and stronger everyday.  I guess the hard part is knowing that I'm working toward a ticking clock and in a week and a half, I'm going to have to get injected again and start the process over.  At least this time I know what to expect and can hopefully head off some of the symptoms before they start.  

I have not done a very good job with keeping in touch with people over the last few days and I apologize.  It really was all I could do not to jump out of my skin, and I had no patience for the internet.  Now that I'm back to my "almost normal" self, I should be much more responsive.  

A few weeks ago, Ben and I went to the FDR Memorial and the Jefferson memorial one evening.  It was very beautiful at night and not at all crowded.  I had recently found out that I would have to undergo chemo and I was thoroughly freaked out by the whole thing.  While at the FDR Memorial, I saw this quote etched at the entrance behind a statue of FDR in his wheelchair and it really struck me:

"Franklin's illness gave him strength and courage he had not had before. He had to think out the fundamentals of living and learn the greatest of all lessons -- infinite patience and never-ending persistence." - Eleanor Roosevelt

And I can only hope that I too can gain this patience and persistence from my situation and I learn to take things slowly and appreciate more of the everyday joys.

As for this weekend, I'm not sure yet what we have planned.  There is the March to Retore Sanity happening on Capitol Hill this weekend, but we'll have to see how I'm feeling.  I know Ben is psyched for a new TV show called "The Walking Dead" on Sunday (its a zombie show).  And I wouldn't mind trying to find a Halloween Party or event, now that I have the best costume (thanks to my office costume party).  I'll post a picture.    Let me know if you have an suggestions!

Love you all!


Friday, October 22, 2010


Today was a bit of an up and down day.  I started off at at the doctor's office getting a shot of Nuelasta (helps push my reserves of while blood cells out into my body to make up for some of the ones I'm losing from my chemo treatment), which was easy enough.  Then I went to lunch with my mom at Le Madeline for some soup.  And finally I ended up at the hair salon to get my transitional haircut (Photos pending).

My thought is that if I'm going to lose my hair in two weeks, it will be much easier to lose half of it, rather than the really long hair I had.  Now I have just above shoulder length hair to get me through the next few days.  I had a wonderful experience at the salon and the hair dresser I had (I forgot to ask his name) was absolutely wonderful.  I had a few friends from AH&A come down to join me (since the salon was just down the street), and of course my fabulous mother was there. After the hair cut was over, I walked up to AH&A to say high to some old friends and it turned out to be a fantastic afternoon.  Thanks to you all.

I came home to find that Ben had gotten out of work early, so we spent a little time cleaning and organizing the apartment with my mom.  The place still doesn't look fantastic, but its hard to keep things clean when you have other things on your mind.   ;o)

During the cleaning, I had a bit of an emotional breakdown -- as my mom described it, all of the drugs and chemicals they have been pumping into my body have finally worked their wait to the surface.  Overall I feel fine, I guess I just needed to let it out a little.

My wonderful, wonderful boyfriend Ben then went to the grocery store for me and made me a chili cheese baked potato which, oddly enough, was exactly what I needed.  And while he was at the store, I got to finish watching "The Holiday", which is one of my favorite movies, and despite how much he loves me, I know I couldn't make him sit through watching that.  :o)  My dad came up to take my mom home so for awhile the gang was all here and we were able to have sort of dinner together.

Now I'm anxious about tomorrow.  They say that days 3 and 4 could be the day when could start really feeling symptoms of chemo and up until now, I've feel largely fine.  I just hope I don't get hit too hard -- I really would like to sail through this without much trouble -- is that too much to ask?

Thank you again for all of the thoughts and and good vibes.  It makes me smile to see all of your well wishes and helps to keep me going through all of this.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Chemical Party

So today was the big day: Chemo treatment #1.  In general it wasn't that bad.  I was there for 4 hours, but the first hour or so was just an IV drop with anti-nausea medications -- in the future I'll be taking those in a pill form in advance, so that should short my treatments some.  I felt fine the entire time I was there, except for a small sinus headache that they alleviated by slowing the drip on my IV.  Once I was done the headache came back and I haven't quite been able to shake it, but it hasn't been too bad.  I've also felt just a twinge of queasiness but really not that bad.

I'm getting chemo at my oncologists office, and its in a room that has 4 chairs in it so I get to make new friends while I am there.  I did meet one woman today who also has breast cancer and she is on the younger side.  She was also receiving her first treatment today so it was good to have someone to talk to who could relate.

Since I've been home, I've just been relaxing and letting my day nurse and evening nurse take care of me (read: my parents and Ben).  I thought that the Caps might be able to pull out a win for me tonight, but apparently they didn't get the memo...

Now for a recap on the rest of this week:

Tuesday - I went to have a MUGA heart scan (its a pretty simple procedure:  they inject you with radioactive dye, then you sit on a chair for about 20 minutes and a small plate takes pictures of your heart).  This would have been fairly uneventful if it hadn't been for the company I had.  While I was getting the scan behind a curtain (and supposed to be perfectly still) they brought in the next patient to start an IV on (while I had done 30 minutes or so earlier).  And guess who it was?  Waffles and yogurt woman from my chemo class -- I instantly knew when I heard her voice, though I never actually got to see her.  I listened to her antics as she IV and had to try extra hard not to laugh while on the machine.

Wednesday - I started off the day at Alexandria hospital so that I could get my mediport placed in my chest.  This is there so that I can get my chemo drugs and blood work through it instead of a standard IV.  When I went into the operating room, they had a wonderful hot air pad and warming blanket that felt so wonderful when I woke up from my twilight sleep (slept through the whole thing and don't remember a thing).  Coming out of the twilight sleep was so pleasant -- mostly because the bed was so cozy.   Once I woke up and had a quick 15 minute recovery, I had to rush down to Stafford for a dentist appointment that I was already late for.  Luckily they were still able to work me in and I was all set to go for my first chemo treatment today.

Last night the port surgery took it s toll and I had a hard time sleeping because my muscles were sore and the bandages were pulling my skin, but I'm hoping tonight goes better since I had some of the bandages taken off.  Interestingly enough, last night was the first time I had trouble sleeping since being diagnosed -- probably because I've just been exhausted at the end of everyday.

Sorry this post is mostly the boring detail stuff but I'm out of funny and witty insights at the moment.  I'm off to bed soon, but I'll check in again soon.

Thank you to everyone for all of the positive thoughts today!

Monday, October 18, 2010

My life is a Lifetime movie.

Its a very odd moment when you realize that your life has become a Lifetime movie.  I mean, I really have seen a movie that is eerily similar to at least the beginnings of my situation.  Its the one where a 27 year old female whose happy and has a relatively normal life is diagnosed with breast cancer despite having little to no family history.  She's diagnosed, spends the next few weeks trying to comprehend and then, as with all "good" Lifetime movies, hijinks ensue. 
And I think it might be a cosmic joke that I was diagnosed right before October, which as we all know is Breast Cancer Awareness month.  The first week or two were difficult to handle.  Every time I saw pink or someone promoting it I just felt bitter, but as I've progressed and accepted everything I've begun to appreciate the significance of having a very well-funded ailment.  So for now, my feelings about the color pink are mixed -- I guess its still a love/hate relationship.

In general, this whole experience has been very unique.  Its been everything from frustrating and upsetting to hilarious and touching.  As you can imagine, dealing with doctors, labs and insurance companies is not very fun -- and when you try to cram everything into 3 weeks, it gets very challenging to say the least.  But I do have to say that its been great to know that I have so many people standing behind me through this.  The support that I've received from everyone that knows has been so touching and it helps to have so many people who are there to help me out and make me smile through all of this.  So thank you to everyone who has sent positive thoughts my way and been so supportive.

There are a lot of overwhelming aspects of having breast cancer, but the first major hurdle I have to clear is chemo.  I start treatment this week -- just 3 weeks after receiving my diagnosis and I barely feel prepared for it.  I've gone out and purchased all of the recommended comfort and care items.  I've started to put together a "bag o' fun" to take with me on treatment days.  I've started wig/scarf shopping (yes, I will have the pleasure of going "G.I. Jane").  I've attended "Chemo 101" through my doctor's office where I met an interesting cast of characters who are also about to begin treatment (and I can tell you that watching someone eat Eggo waffles doused in yogurt at 9am in the morning is, while highly disgusting, actually a great distraction from feeling upset about the chemo side effects -- it really helps you channel your bad feelings toward the idiot eating it).  But even after all of this, I still don't really feel prepared. 

I keep thinking when I'm done with all of this, I will be a stronger person.  And I hope that I can use this experience and turn it into something positive one day.  Until then, I will just try to stay positive and get through one day at a time.  So let the countdown begin -- I should hopefully be done with chemo sometime in early March.  Then its time for a little surgery, maybe some radiation...piece of cake!

In an attempt to keep everyone updated and hopefully to give me something therapeutic to do, I've started this blog.  We'll see how successful I am at keeping it up to date -- I will do my best.  And please, keep those distractions coming.

Love you all!